By Audrey Knapp
Photos by Josh Triggs
At first glance, David Weller might appear to be like any other neighbor here in Martinsburg, WV. The 42-year-old was born and bred in Berkeley county, went to Shepherd University on a football scholarship, and has a steady job right here in town. Yet he stands apart from the rest of our neighbors for the fact that he doesn’t just live in our community, he lives for our community. David Weller is a Lieutenant at the Martinsburg Fire Department, working as a shift fire officer and the department’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) coordinator.
Lieutenant Weller doesn’t only do his job with the distinction which earned him his swift progress through the ranks – he goes above and beyond to improve emergency services for the community. His commitment to improvements in emergency services was recently demonstrated when Lt. Weller spearheaded and followed through to implementation a critical change to EMS protocols.
Previously, EMS providers in certain regions of West Virginia were only allowed to transport patients, and any additional care which might be provided by these personnel was strictly limited. These regionally based systems are now replaced with a statewide system which allows EMS providers throughout West Virginia to provide expanded techniques and methods of patient care.
An important aspect to understand about this extraordinary progress in improving statewide EMS protocols is that it’s the direct result of Lt. Weller’s determination to save more lives. Martinsburg Fire Chief Paul Bragg stated, “through [Weller’s] leadership and enthusiasm, the West Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services was able to do a complete overhaul of statewide EMS Protocols for both EMTs and Paramedics.”
Weller also ensured training programs were already devised and implemented to properly train all EMS personnel in performing the newly approved life-saving measures once the expanded program was put into effect across the state. This entire process was an idea followed through to completion with all appropriate action and the desire to save more lives in our region and in our state – and a deep debt of gratitude is owed to Lt. Weller.
The initiative of Lt. Weller doesn’t stop there. His work ethic and dedication is described in detail by Chief Bragg. “Lieutenant Weller’s professional knowledge and sound judgment, combined with his ability to work without supervision and his willingness to work beyond his normal duties, makes him an asset to the Martinsburg Fire Department and the citizens we serve.” The Chief finished by saying Lt. Weller “is a pleasure to work with.”
When questioned about his decision to join the Fire and EMS field, Weller mentions a specific person who inspired him while he was in college. “I met a very well respected firefighter/paramedic, Jim McQuaid, who was instrumental in my decision to move into this field.”
The importance of mentors early in this career is emphasized by Lt. Weller. “Mentoring is paramount in the Fire and EMS field. Textbooks and classes cover the essential material but there is a lot to be said for experience and dedication. I have learned an incredible amount of information from mentors, from tricks of the trade, to safety precautions, to the basics of how to treat people.”
In regards to the future of his career, he says he strives to maintain his momentum and keep progressing in his field. When asked which incidents might have affected his continued dedication to Fire and EMS he stated, “The career as a whole is rewarding. You never stop learning and you meet all walks of life. Every firefighter has the stories of the life they impacted, the property they saved, or the rescue they performed. These are all valid moments that impact the life of a firefighter, but nothing trumps the camaraderie, friendships, and family bond that is formed from being in this profession.”
Lt. Weller offers an important piece of advice to those who might be interested in the career field: “The younger generation should be aware that the profession is changing and education is the key. Firefighting is now recognized as a science and a college education will certainly be beneficial to those who want to emerge as a leader and advance in the career.”
Youth who might be interested in a Fire and EMS career are offered additional information from Lt. Weller: some fire departments have youth firefighter divisions, and some High Schools even offer certifications in “firefighting, rescue, emergency medical responder, and emergency vehicle operations.” Participants of these High School programs can also earn credits toward degrees with local colleges.
All others who are interested in volunteering should contact their local departments for more information. Lt. Weller advises residents of many ways to become involved. “Volunteer departments need people willing to learn the trade and function on emergency scenes, as well as those who are willing take on support tasks and assist with fundraising.”
Weller mentioned many people are unaware of how much cost is actually involved in maintaining life-saving equipment and conducting the operations of Volunteer departments. “Volunteer organizations do get funding from their counties, however it’s generally not sufficient without supplemental funding” which is raised through the independent efforts of the Volunteer departments.
Volunteering at events is an especially effective means of supporting the Volunteer and Career departments as “they often hold fundraising activities for particular causes such as MDA and Relay for Life.” Weller continued by saying community members who don’t wish to be trained as firefighters or responders to EMS calls can still help significantly by supporting and participating in these important fundraising activities.
When residents see Fire and EMS personnel rushing to a scene, they should remember it’s due to the selfless-service and dedication of Lt. Weller, and the men and women like him, who work every day to help us survive through terrible accidents and tragedies. Continued gratitude and support is owed to Lt. Weller and all of the Fire and EMS personnel who are committed to serving the community in its greatest times of need.